Wednesday 23 February 2011

Knot what I was expecting

I stayed the night of the 21st/22nd in Dersingham with Phil Wallace and Mark Stanley. Phil wanted to photograph the huge numbers of Knot at Snettisham. While this is not something that I would go out of my way to do, I figured it would be an opportunity to get Rough-legged Buzzard and/or Golden Pheasant later in the day (plus I wouldn't say no to seeing thousands of roosting waders) so thought it would be worth coming.

Snettisham didn't start well, I realised I had left my binoculars in the car so had to run back and it was spitting with rain. Arriving shortly before high tide, not many waders were flying over our heads so we went into the hides to see thousands of Knot and Oystercatcher along with a Ruddy Shelduck and about thirty Avocets and a redhead Red-breasted Merganser. To be honest I was underwhelmed with the waders, from what I had seen on TV etc I was expecting endless flocks to be arriving and adding to an unbroken and extensive carpet of birds. Instead, there were at least 15,000 Knot tightly packed and covering a small part of the bank. While this sounds a lot, it is half the number Phil saw last year and looked suitably unimpressive, somehow.

Mark and Phil then seemed to decide we were going to Titchwell, so off we went. A Barn Owl was seen on the way. About forty Twite were nice to see as was a Red-necked Grebe close-in on the sea. Several hundred Common Scoters were on the sea but I was far more surprised to see a raft of about fifty Eider. Two Grey Partridges showed well.

At 4.00pm, with just an hour of light left, we finally headed to Holkham, the main reason why I came. At this point I was getting quite irate that the reason for my presence had been left so late. We pulled up by the side of the road were a group of birders where trying to turn a Common Buzzard into a Rough-leg. I told them politely that it wasn't what they thought it was but they weren't getting it until I spotted a distant bird and stated 'Now that is a Rough-leg'. I've been looking for these birds so many times and familiarised myself with them to such a degree that identification wasn't a problem. The bird was very pale on the head and chest and had a solid black belly. When it preened or flew the white tail with a wide, well-defined terminal tail band, was obvious. A Grey Partridge showed here, also.

Provided that everything I've seen gets accepted (Alder Flycatcher and Glaucous-winged Gull are probably the most risky), this would be my 300th bird. It's frustrating that my 300th bird could be one of three and I won't know which it is at the time. Oh well. It was very nice to get Rough-leg in the bag after so many hours spent looking for them in the past. Thanks Phil and Mark for the company.